Written by Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson and Daniela Vlaskalic, The Drowning Girls is based on the real-life crimes of British serial killer George Joseph Smith. But the story is told from the perspective of the three women he married, and then drowned — Alice, Bessie and Margaret.
As they lie in limbo in the very bathtubs where they died, the three ladies share their gruesome stories while contemplating the dark realities of life, love and marriage in the early 20th century. It’s a chilling tale of female empowerment, featuring some twisted humour and captivating dialogue that’s sure to leave audiences breathless.
“These women were vulnerable,” said director Pamela Halstead. “So often when mass murders happen, there’s so much focus on the person who did it. But this play takes back the stories of these three women, the victims. It’s important they be remembered, and have their stories told.”
She also said the show is especially relevant in today’s society, even though the story is set around 100 years ago.
“Women continue to disappear every day,” said Halstead. “The times have changed, but even in North America there are vulnerable women who go missing, and nobody really pays attention. Through our three characters onstage, this play gives those women voices.”
For the cast, The Drowning Girls is an extremely technical performance. The actors get wet, cold, move around between bathtubs, and try not to slip, all while delivering their lines in saucy English accents.
Andrea Norwood plays Alice, Ryanne Chisholm plays Margaret, and Leah Pritchard plays Bessie. In an interview, Pritchard said the show’s production team is “awesome. Just awesome.”
“It’s a rare thing to have a show about female empowerment with a basically all-female crew,” she said. “But the men on our crew are fantastic as well. We’re really tight knit. Preparing for this show has been a joy.”
As for the bathtubs, water, and rather unique stage setup, that’s all part of the fun for Pritchard.
“I remember when we were cast for this back in October,” she said. “Pam told us there would be a lot of sitting in water for long periods of time. I remember thinking, ‘isn’t that the cool part?’ This has been so much fun, and honestly, our crew is amazing. There’s even a splash zone by the first row. I can’t wait for people to see this.”
The Drowning Girls opens this tonight, and runs until May 1 at Neptune’s Scotiabank Studio Theatre in Halifax.